Dental fear is normal, especially among children. According to Anders Broberg and Gunilla Klingberg, six to 19 percent of children age four to 19 are scared and anxious about visiting the dentist.
However, regardless of the fear, a dental visit remains an essential part of a child’s oral care. Despite the eventual fall out of baby teeth, they play a vital role in the development of the permanent teeth and in your child’s overall health.
Baby teeth begin to cut through the gums as early as six-months-old. By age three, a full set of 20 teeth is expected to be present. Kids should have their first dental checkup at six-months-old or as soon as the first teeth emerge.
To prep your child for his or her first dental visit, here are four tips you can follow to help your child be comfortable on a dental chair.
#1 Do Not Show Your Anxiousness To Your Kid
A dental office is an unfamiliar territory to your kid. As his or her parents, it is perfectly reasonable to feel anxious about taking him or her to the dentist, especially with different equipment and strangers around.
However, be calm. Your child turns to you for signs about the new situation. If they sense your apprehension, they will become guarded, thinking something about the new situation is scary.
#2 Answer Your Kid’s Questions About the Dentist
Because children are curious by nature and are eager to learn, they are interested to know more about their new encounters. As a dental office is something unfamiliar, your child will have a lot of questions about it.
Be ready to answer those questions and provide helpful answers that are easy-to-understand for your child. Use child-friendly terms and avoid using words that will trigger fear on your child.
You can also try role-playing to familiarize your kid with the dental office and the procedures.
#3 Praise Your Kid Instead Of Bribing
Children can turn fussy, and when such happens, we turn to bribes to stop them from being uncontrollable. However, bribing your kid does more harm than good as it fails to teach him or her the importance of good behavior. Thus, they will begin to see good behavior as an equivalent of candy, toy, or a prize. Instead of a material reward, it is better to give verbal praises.
#4 Share Good Stories About Dentists
Do not scare your child with your awful experience at a dental office. Share good stories about dentists and fun experiences with a dental checkup. You can use the stories of neighborhood kids or your kid’s classmates as examples as they are more familiar to him or her.
You can also describe the nice things inside the dental office such as how the staff are always smiling or how the dentist is like his or her favorite character. Even small details that tickle his or her excitement will be helpful in easing your kid’s dental fear and condition his or her mind to think that the dental clinic is not an entirely new place but has common traits they could relate.